Name: Micheline Courtemanche
Company Name: Betty and Bing
Note from Jenn: I adore letterpress and I adore Micheline Courtemanche of Betty and Bing. It was so cool to have Micheline in one of my Right-Brain Business Plan e-Courses and then seeing the launch of her Betty and Bing website. As Micheline shares below, she really put her heart and soul into her business plan and her dedication and passion has paid off! I’m sure you’ll be inspired reading about her creative journey and seeing how she surrounds herself with her colorful and functional visual plan. (All photos courtesy of Micheline Courtemanche.)
Over the past two years I have been putting together a letterpress business. I have three antique letterpresses that I primarily use to print commissioned work such as business cards, invitations and promotional material. My next step is to put together some of my own ideas to print and sell on-line, in stores and at craft fairs.
That last paragraph seems pretty simple and straight-forward but it took me a really long time to get there. In the beginning, my ideas were all over the place. There were too many oh-I-could-do-thats to ever do them successfully at the same time. As a result, it became very difficult to talk about my business without sounding scattered. I lacked vision and focus but I wanted to succeed. I needed a business plan.
I sat down to do a traditional business plan more than once. Each time I stopped it was because I felt uninspired to make it work and I turned into a drop-out before even getting started. I found the traditional plan started me on the outside of the business circle. There were lists and lists of obstacles that I was supposed to overcome and other competition that I need to elbow out of my way if I had any hope of success. And I had such a hard time with the static approach to the information and the research. The graphic designer in me rebels against spreadsheets, graphs and business jargon. This approach just didn’t work for me and I stopped trying.
But I wasn’t ready to give up. I fell in love with letterpress and the person I was when I was doing it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else and couldn’t deny the need for a business plan any longer. I came across the Right Brain Business Plan (rbbp) completely by accident one day. I was avoiding my traditional plan with a fury and was aimlessly surfing the internet. I was immediately inspired by their approach. What I was doing clearly wasn’t working and I was desperate to try something new.
When the rbbp began, I was blown away by the difference in the approach. Instead of trying to thrust my business into a world that didn’t want any newcomers, it started with me and my vision for my business and then examined what we had to offer. There was a real feeling of there being a spot for me in the big world of business. One that I would have to work really hard to keep but not one that I would have to elbow anyone to get. It was refreshing.
The course turned out to be challenging on every level. It was emotionally difficult, there was a lot of research to do and organizing it took a lot of time but I was always excited to work on it. I looked forward to new assignments and threw myself into each one. Translating all of my notes that I kept in a workbook into visuals was by far the most rewarding part of the class. It turned my business plan into a living element of my business. It hangs on the walls of my office but it’s so much more than a series of pictures. I move things around, change them and re-evaluate them all the time.
There are five key elements on my wall. All of them have been put together with magazine cutouts, printer paper, cardboard from cereal boxes, printouts of some of my photographs, my trusty black pen and a roll of tape. There are a million ways to put together a visual plan (as you can see from touring this website) but this is the way that best reflects me and my talents. It was a completely natural solution which is why I think it works so well for me.
I have a vision board so full of images, ideas and colour that six months after making it I’m still inspired by it. I have some character sketches of my ideal clients made of magazine images and words. I have a money-in and a money-out chart (revenue and expenses in traditional terms) so I can keep my eye on the finances in a glance. I created lists of people who are always there to help me for different reasons. I’ve worked from home for fifteen years so to be able to have a list of people I know will help, share their knowledge or just listen to my ideas when I need to get them out is an invaluable resource. Having them there on the wall is a nice reminder that I’m not in this alone. The largest element on the wall is my calendar and I would be lost without it. It’s my main organizer. It’s my motivator. It’s the hub of my business. I post all of the things that need to get done in regards to all aspects of the business. Every day I’m reminded of what needs doing and what’s coming up. Since it’s just taped to the wall it’s also not set in stone. I can easily add, move or remove any of the parts. I love when form and function comes together like this. In the short time this calendar has been up, it has helped me to organize and photograph my portfolio, create and activate my website, get my finances organized, develop some promotional ideas and get my shop closer to completion. Simply by working with this calendar on a regular basis, I’ve gained so much more confidence in myself in regards to my business and business in general. It was an unexpected but very welcome side-effect.
If I had any advice to give anyone starting a business it would be to keep one foot in front of the other. If you constantly do something for your business, no matter how small or big, you can’t help but move forward. It might not always feel like it but that’s why it’s so important to take a moment every now and again to look back. You will have undoubtedly moved closer to your goals. That alone is worth celebrating.
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